I heard the other week that when we remember something, we are actually remembering the previous time we remembered it, not the original event itself.
Not being a neurobiologist, I had a civilian root around and this seems to be the general consensus but I haven’t conducted experiments myself to validate the findings.
I got to thinking how Mormons are encouraged to keep a diary, to record the daily event and also the insights that occur in their lives.
We move house quite frequently. Since the age of 24 I’ve bounced around in a state of “this fixed abode isn’t likely to be fixed for very long”. I chose to move every time. Each time was for a good reason. What it didn’t foster, though, was a sense of permanence and of being able to settle in.
It’s a running joke that if I’m not willing to carry it to the truck next time, it’s not coming in my house. Thus I have very few personal possessions. What I do have, however, are earlier diaries, written by me when I was feeling particularly like recording what was going on.
I have a good memory. I am pretty blessed with good recall, particularly if there is an audible element to the interaction.
However, when I read back over my diaries which have travelled with me all these house moves, I noticed that there had been a drift, a huge difference between what happened (what I’d written) and how I thought it happened (my current memory of the event).
It is this drift which made me appreciate, for the first time, why it was good to keep a diary. It is like having the opportunity to re-calibrate and get back to an authentic starting point, which is highly valuable and most definitely appreciated.
To revisit wonderful events such as the birth of a child, or what serving a mission was really like, what it was like to move from my home town to somewhere I hardly knew anybody, the wedding day, holidays, or how frustrated I was to live in a dusty and half renovated house, how liberating and life affirming it was during the time I was agnostic, how really furious I was at a huge bust up, or how this years health kick really will be the one to change everything added a richness to the memories I walk around with daily.
I am also someone who is immensely frustrated at not being able to see the end from the beginning. It is a physical pain, a torment, and makes me want to sharpen a biro or two. It is a common phrase among my friends “the end from the beginning”.
The diaries I found in a suitcase of books from the most recent 3 house moves helped me see a pattern over a period of years – not the day or two I was hoping for when in the midst of challenges – of how things panned out, how with consistent effort and attention we worked through everything thus far.
I love meme’s and one of my favourites is “I have a 100% track record of getting through rough times”.
The diaries are evidentiary support of this simple idea.
I have gotten through the bad, I have always and vigorously embraced the fantastic, I have a happy habit of seeing the good, and even on the days where I make a nest in a pile of duvets and cannot be coaxed out for love nor money it all worked out ok.
I can see in hindsight the times when I was loved and looked after. I can see the unfolding of hopes, dreams and promises. It is rather humbling to be taught by yourself in the present moment from a time in the distant past, like a voice from the dust.
I think I may try to be a little more diligent going forward.